If you've ever been to the British countryside, you'll have seen these intriguing little signs by the sides of leafy lanes, (and sometimes even leading from busy roads) that say 'Public Footpath.' If you're like us, you've maybe wondered where they go. Perhaps you've even thought, "One day, I'll find out what the deal is with those...is there another, more hidden and secret way to see and feel this beautiful country? Can anyone just slip up that lane, and disappear into the trees? What does it feel like to just explore...maybe with art supplies.."
We're big believers here at Wandering Crafts in the Mysterious Workings of the Universe. Events aligned, and Summer, in one of her "Ya know what we should DO?!.." moments, suggested a ramble. Well, maybe more of an amble (because she was pitching the idea to me, Jane, who is more the tortoise to Summer's hare) , on the Cotswold Way - a 102 mile trail winding across the rolling sheep pastures, woodlands, and honey-colored stone villages of south-western England.
Summer's aunties had walked the Cotswold Ring - a shorter, circular version of the trail taking in some of the more famous beauty spots - with an outfitters called https://www.cotswoldwalks.com/ and at 64 miles, with several rest days, this version seemed a bit more do-able. Summer comes from hardy, pioneer Nordic stock, whereas I practically failed PE in school, but Summer's clever key words like 'we can turn it into a crafting experience!' and 'sketch strolling in the country!' were used.
We newbie hikers signed up.
Walking outfits, and backpacks, and folding chairs were obtained, hiking shoes were ordered, tested, returned, ordered again.
Me: "Do we really need energy bars?"
Summer: "We're civilized crafters - we'll have lunch in pubs along the way! And we'll stay at Inns, with their lovely dining rooms and snugs for evenings resting tired feet. And we'll gather wool roving, and snail shells, and feathers and pebbles.."
Which all came from our visit to the Royal Highland Show here in Edinburgh, and a lovely chance meeting (oh, Universe) with The Pleinair Weaver, who regularly wanders the countryside with a loom, weaving in the flotsam that she finds. Take a look at one of her YouTube videos to get a feel for it - it's magic!
It's also quite the conversation starter, having a loom strapped to one's day pack. Fellow ramblers (you might see one an hour, so it's not a traffic jam of people) and local dog strollers could be counted on to stop and ask about our looms, and this would lead to chats and the petting of their dogs. It's such a friendly experience, this lonely-wander-as-a-cloud kind of lifestyle.
We didn't just stroll through fields of sheep, or explore Neolithic (over 5,000 years old) burial mounds, and gaze at chocolate-box villages that looked straight from Hobbiton with their climbing roses, and weathered wood doors.
We also sketched! Sketch Strolling, Jane's own offshoot of Urban Sketching, adapts just as well to country, and village, as city. That's the perfect little town of Chipping Campden being strolled and sketched during one of our rest days. We did indulge in visiting a spa, several pubs, and supported a few local artists showing their wares under the arches of the Market Hall (built in 1647) there too.
I also do just love miniature things (dachshunds, dolls houses, those tiny little book nook rooms that you position between your books to give the illusion that that there is another world hidden behind). It's a bit cheesy, but I had to visit Bourton-on-the-Water's self-referential model village of itself. Wandering Crafter in photo is for scale only, of course.
Remember I mentioned Hobbiton? JRR Tolkien spent years in this area of England, as he was a professor at nearby Oxford University. It's reputed that the doors of St. Edwards Church in Stow-on-the-Wold were his inspiration for the Doors of Durin. We had to see them, and they are just as magical in real life as you'd hope. Note the yew trees growing around the doors - yew are often found in holy places in the British Isles.
We, as civilized ramblers, also enjoyed a LOT of wonderful food - this is a roast lunch that we enjoyed at the Oldest Inn in England - it's over a thousand years old (the Inn, not the roast)! Our Wandering Crafters from Spring 2022 enjoyed a similar meal in a beautiful rose-gardened tavern and I daresay they're still dreaming of it.
Speaking of which, we're filling our Spring 2023 retreat fast - so if you're feeling an inclination to wander with us (no, we won't make you hike) next year - send us an email and we'll get you sorted! We're visiting Edinburgh and Northumberland, England with Anne Kelly - details are on the retreat page of our website: Wandering Craft Spring 2023 Retreat.
Summer's finished weaving - isn't it gorgeous?! So filled with memories, and redolent with the spirit of place.
We hope you'll join us - and weave your own amazing tales of the landscapes, people, and magic - in the Spring of 2023.
Until next time...xx
The Wandering Crafters, Summer and Jane